What made you decide to release a mobile app for your guide?
Well, the Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Guide is in its 25th year, and Hero Design Studio decided I should do an app. They’ve been working on it for a year, and everyone in town is having a ball talking about it. It’s literally my guide on the go! My favorite thing so far is the ‘Places Near Me’ feature. It locates you and tells you what’s close by along with price points and ratings. It’s great for when you’re out on the town. The reservations are powered by OpenTable, in fact!
We’re so pleased to be able to support it! And it’s here at the same time as Denver Restaurant Week. I was actually just shocked to learn that even though it’s just seven years young, Denver Restaurant Week (or, rather, weeks!) is the biggest in the country!
It is! It’s the biggest restaurant week in the country and it’s great. The restaurants are mobbed. The people are super. And, yes, it’s weeks, too, whether you approve or not. In fact, there are restaurants who’d like to do restaurant year! The demand to dine out is so great that even those that don’t participate do well!
What’s the level of the dishes the restaurants are putting out?
The restaurants are doing great dinners! They’re are really into it. Kevin Taylor has a menu of six or seven fabulous choices for each course. Strings is doing four courses, and they’re really going out with shrimp and salmon and steak and lamb. And, this makes it so you really do want to go back to the restaurants time and again.
Season 7 finalist Ed Cotton steps away from behind the burners at Plein Sud to lend his expert eye to this week’s episode of Top Chef All Stars
Hey, Ed! How much would it, well, suck to miss the final four after coming so far?
It‘s gotta stink! I was so nervous standing in front of Anthony Bourdain, knowing that one of us was going to pack our knives and go. I was determined to stay, and I didn’t want to go home after all of that hard work and reaching the finals. I beat out all the other chefs but two, but you want to be the last chef standing.
Padma’s in the house. Ruh-roh. What’s your experience been with surprises in Top Chef? Never good news?
There was always some sort of surprise, but it never included Padma coming into our house. It would have been nice to have her in the house, but no chance. Every day, we would all look at each other and wonder what kind of s*$# they were going to pull on us that day. You never know what they are going to do. It could look like a simple challenge, but then they throw something into the mix that makes you scratch your head.
This challenge also feels kinda gimmicky, especially that Dan Barber winds up being the judge. These ingredients are everything he’s not! Do you know Dan or have you dined at his restaurants?
It was great to see Dan Barber in this episode. I’m not sure that he was pumped to eat food off of the boat, but it is always good to see him. I love his approach to food and his philosophy on it. I have dined many times at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, and what an experience it is! It is truly a magical place during the changing of the seasons, and I love walking around the property and garden. I like to go during my favorite months and get the tasting menu — the food is so fresh and flavorful. Even the cocktails are made with juices and herbs from the garden. They really do it right there! Actually, Dan even gave me and my dining companion a ride back to the city after eating dinner at Blue Hill one night. It was already late when we finished our dessert, and he offered to take me back to Manhattan. He’s a class act and a great chef.
Not knowing that Dan is the judge, what might you have made?
I’m not sure what I would have made. My first instinct would be to go for hot dogs or something processed (something that wouldn’t require too much cooking). I would try to manipulate the food as smartly as possible and transform it into something that doesn’t look like it came off of a snack bar. Mike’s soup thing made me cringe. I think it made him cringe, also.
What are you allowed to carry in your kit, by the by? Herbs? What else?
It is crazy what Richard has in his knife bag. You can have a certain amount of knives and special ingredients, but you have to be very selective of what you bring. I wracked my brain for days about what I was going to pack. I had everything I wanted spread all over my carpet at home — huge debate. (My girlfriend Diana didn’t like that too much!) I went with a lot of my spice blends that I bought from a good friend of mine, Lior Lev Sercarz, at his store named La Boîte à Epice in New York. His spice blends propelled my food to the next level. Thanks, buddy!
What is your heritage and which part of that would you most like to reflect in a dish? Do any dishes come to mind?
Well, my heritage is a bit all over the place. I’m a bit of everything — a mutt, if you will. Growin up, my grandfather loved eating corned beef and cabbage. I remember when I was a kid, we would always eat that on St. Patrick’s Day. My dad would make a big batch every year, and then my grandfather would come over and have dinner with us. With that said, I would do a version of corned beef and cabbage. The broth would be a rich beef consommé with lightly corned beef that was braised in that flavorful broth along with some stuffed cabbage and root vegetables. I did a version of this one year while I was working for Dainel Boulud in Las Vegas. It was a hit on St Patrick’s Day! This challenge would be right up my alley.
Which member of your family would you most want to be judging your food?
I would love to have seen my mother or my father! They both love food and cooking, so flip a coin because it’s a tough one to choose.
FTW…it’s Antonia, and I am really SHOCKED. You? I really thought that, while it was close, Tiffany stuck the landing over everyone.
Wow, Antonia nailed it! Great job! She has been a solid competitor this season and she knows how to cook, that’s for sure. Tiffany was determined not to go home this time. During my season, this is exactly when she went home. I was so happy to see her pull through again. The judges were right; it was a very tough decision. They all looked good. What a terrific episode this was!
I’m stunned that they changed the rules and let all five through. What do you think was going on here?
Again, with the answer above, all of the dishes were great. It must have been a long time at judges table. I am sure that someone was secretly pissed off that no one actually went home. I know I would only want four going to the finals, and not five. But, they all hit a home run with this challenge!
What lies ahead here in this final round? And, how would you feel about competing against Kevin one more time?
You really don’t know what to expect in the finals at all. Anything goes! All I know is that I wasn’t joking around and was on a mission to cook good food for the title of Top Chef. I would love to go up against Kevin again, anytime, anywhere. Kev’s a great guy and his food is quality. I’m not afraid or scared to compete against anyone. It is just food!
OpenTable is pleased to announce that we’ve seated our 200 millionth cumulative diner during the first quarter. Diners seated via online reservations through OpenTable have now spent an estimated $8 billion at partner restaurants.
“Our early adopting restaurants were using the OpenTable Electronic Reservation Book first and foremost to optimize their front-of-house operations,” said Jeff Jordan, Chief Executive Officer of OpenTable. “Over time, diners discovered the convenience of making online reservations, and we’re very gratified that over 200 million diners have been seated through our service. We value our partnership with our restaurant customers and are energized by helping them fill their dining rooms and grow their businesses.”
“In 1999, we became one of the first restaurants to computerize the host stand using OpenTable,” said Dale Forrest, General Manager of Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco, a critically acclaimed winner of numerous OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards. “Our original decision to use the OpenTable Electronic Reservation Book was driven by its user-friendly interface and operational benefits, such as catering to all our guests’ needs, planning special events, and efficiently managing seating plans. Over time, as the OpenTable diner network has grown and online reservations have become increasingly popular, we’ve reaped another benefit: filling more seats.”
OpenTable has more than 20,000 restaurant customers, including over 3,000 restaurants in the United Kingdom that may be booked via toptable.com, a leading restaurant reservation site based in London and owned and operated by OpenTable.
The start of March brings the start of Dine Around Seattle. Now in its tenth year, Dine Around Seattle fetes the best of the Seattle dining scene for a whole month. Featuring $15 lunches and $30 dinners, more than 40 restaurants are proudly participating in what has become a Seattle tradition. Organizer Lissa Gruman shared her advice and reflections on Dine Around Seattle and this landmark anniversary.
It was right after 9-11 — March 2002 — to be exact, which meant the restaurants were really hurting, but, really, it was Richard Malia of Ponti Seafood Grill that wanted to do this, his vision, based on New York Restaurant Week. He wanted to bring restaurants together for a collaborative event, but we had tons of resistance, at first. That is why we started as 25 for $25. We could only convince 25 restaurants to participate, but it took off like mad once we launched. We always felt that one week alone would not be enough time to make an impression in this market.
I think Dine Around Seattle has built a brand that consumers know, trust, and anticipate. We have held to high standards over the years to deliver a fantastic experience, and the dining public believes our commitment to the promise.
With a whopping 19 of the winning restaurants located in the South, including three from Charleston, South Carolina, it’s clear that Southern hospitality is alive and well. The West is second best with 13 of its restaurants landing spots, followed by the Northeast with 12 winners, and the Midwest with five honorees. Restaurants in the always-influential states of California and New York earned, respectively, nine and six nods from OpenTable diners.
Restaurants serving American cuisine earned an impressive 13 awards. Overall, however, French restaurants remain the gold standard for white-glove service, with 18 of the Diners’ Choice Award recipients serving the cuisine of France, which just so happens to be the birthplace of fine dining. In honor of his win, Executive Chef Eric Ripert of award-winning French restaurant Le Bernardin shared his perspective on service.
Congratulations on yet another achievement for you and your staff at Le Bernardin. What’s the single biggest challenge in delivering the level of service Le Bernardin does?
Our obsession is consistency. We have very high standards for delivering the ultimate experience to our clients. It’s not an easy task and then we have to duplicate that for each individual, each service and every day.
Patrick, as someone who sits on both sides of the equation, server and diner, how hard is it to execute service at these award-winning restaurants?
A lot harder than most people will ever know. I heard about what went on behind the scenes at Menton, arguably the new pinnacle of fine dining in Boston (Ed Note: Menton is on our list!). The planning, training, role-playing, and practice required to provide consistent, seamless service requires a huge investment of time, effort, and energy by everyone involved. Service is only one part of the overall dining experience. As I have said before, great service is execution; great hospitality is a mindset, an awareness, and a culture focused on making a meaningful and memorable connection with guests. If you make a memorable connection with your guests, you can convert them from being guests to becoming ambassadors for your restaurant.
What’s the most difficult aspect of being a service provider?
Staying on top of all of the information that you are bombarded with. With all of these new movements — the cocktail renaissance, snout-to-tail butchery, sustainable sourcing — the list is endless. And, diners have so much information, literally at their finger tips, that they expect servers to know exactly where their food is sourced, in addition to knowing the ingredients of each dish and how it is executed in the kitchen.
If reviewing food is subjective, then so is assessing service at a restaurant. While some diners love to be fawned over (guilty as charged!), others would prefer more emphasis be placed on the timely delivery of food and filling of water glasses than themselves. With that in mind, we’re wondering what matters most to you when it comes to restaurant service. Tell us, with today’s dining poll!
Stepping away from his kitchen at Manhattan’s Plein Sud restaurant, Executive Chef Ed Cotton, a season 7 Top Chef finalist, sheds some light on the action during last night’s episode of Top Chef All Stars.
I saw your Facebook photo of the cassoulet from Plein Sud a few days ago. Love this! I make a Castelnaudary-style cassoulet every year. What’s your favorite type?
I’m very traditional when it comes to Cassoulet. I make my own garlic sausage, cure my own duck legs and pork belly to make the confit, and braise a leg of lamb. The beans have to be Tarbais beans — nothing else. Stop by Plein Sud, before it gets warm and our menu changes for the spring season.
Heartthrob vampire Robert Pattinson and his leading lady, on screen and off, Kristen Stewart, just arrived in Vancouver to begin filming on the Breaking Dawnsequels, the fourth and fifth installments in the successful Twilight movie franchise. So, where will Pattinson and Stewart, otherwise known as Edward and Bella, dine out in Vancouver, presumably with fellow castmates like Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Ashely Greene?